The Steinway & Sons Concert Grands are being tuned and polished and the UofSC School of Music is being readied to welcome 20 accomplished participants to the Southeastern Piano Festival June 14-21.
Coming from more than a dozen states, young participants of the 2015 festival converge on the University of South Carolina campus and Columbia to spend a week honing their talent with prestigious faculty and guest artists, including two Van Cliburn medalists and an Italian prodigy. The 20 participants were selected from one of the strongest pools of applicants in the festival’s history, according to festival artistic director, Marina Lomazov. They will compete at the week’s end in the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition.
Past winners of the festival continue to accomplish great things. They are performers, teachers and advocates. These are three festival alumni who continue to excel.
Sonya Schumann, a USC graduate, is finishing up her D.M.A. at the University of Michigan and holds top prizes in many competitions. She is serving as chair of the 2015 SEPF Young Jury.
In addition to winning first prize in the 2004 SEPF, Sonya has been a prize winner at the Bartok-Kabelevsky-Prokofiev Competition, Williamsburg Symphony Concerto Competition and the South Carolina Music Teachers Association Competition. She has given performances throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia, and most recently, she has been invited to perform at Oberlin Conservatory, Cincinnati Conservatory and the Kennedy Center.
Sonya and her sister, Elizabeth, founded the international Piano Theatre in Boston to provide public access to the arts and to engage audiences with innovative combinations of classical music, theatre, literature, art and technology. Sonya and Elizabeth perform as the Schumann Duo, promoting classical music for children in areas where arts programs and funding have been cut. Sonya also serves as an ambassador for the Piano Arts Consortium, performing benefit concerts and giving master classes across the East coast.
Sonya is passionate about teaching and has appeared as a guest lecturer and master class presenter at several festivals and colleges, including Keys Fest, Music Teachers National Association, Central Michigan University, Red Rocks Music Festival and Art at Noon at LexArts.
The young Eric Lu, 2013 SEPF third-prize winner and current freshman at Curtis Institute of Music, recently placed first in the highly prestigious Chopin National Piano Competition in Miami. Eric has also received top prizes at a number of major international competitions. He received first prizes at the 9th Moscow International Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in 2014 and the Minnesota International e-Piano Junior Competition, where he also won the special Schubert Prize in 2013.
Eric has given performances across the U.S., in Germany, Italy and China and has collaborated with the Minnesota Orchestra, the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia, Wellesley Symphony, the Longwood Symphony and the Boston Civic Symphony.
Kevin Ahfat, 2012 SEPF second-prize winner, is currently a junior at Juilliard where he won the 2013 Julliard Concerto Competition, resulting in his New York City debut performing in Alice Tully Hall. He is a 2015 SEPF guest artist on the Alumni Celebration Concert and is volunteering as festival associate for the week.
Acclaimed by Estes Park News as a pianist of “exceptional breadth” whose “spirited, flawless performance stemmed from the very depth of his soul,” Kevin has performed both as solo and chamber artist in numerous venues nationally and internationally, including the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center in Arizona, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York, Boettcher Concert Hall in Colorado, and Fumin Hall in Kyoto, Japan.
He has garnered top prizes in many national and international competitions – the 5th Schimmel International Piano Competition, Steinway & Sons Concerto Competition, the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, and the Eastman International Piano Competition.
Kevin is also actively involved in community outreach initiatives. He has worked with the Music Advancement Program at Juilliard and was a mentor and coach for the MERIT Outreach Program at the Music Academy of the West.